A day in the life

Yesterday we ended a month at one work site and began a week at another one. This is such a short stay it will fly by, and then we have a time out.

We started the morning with clean up. It’s my routine to leave the temp housing ready for the next guest, and I also leave a few things tucked behind for the next trip. There’s always a bit of sorting and tossing to do, and between packing and tidying, departure days start early.

The weather was a factor. We were scheduled to fly out via float plane, but the winds were too high, so we had a last-minute switch to the ferry. The tricky part is managing luggage between ferry and airport without a vehicle, when there are several errand stops between the two. We had to revise the plan. The only thing to do was drop the luggage at the airport first so we could navigate the stops without a struggle.

We had most of the day to spend in Ketchikan, the big city that offers a few more amenities than the small islands where we’re working. Hair cut, shopping, lunch, and mail pick up were all on the list.

Here’s where the frustration of the Ketchikan airport comes in. To drop off luggage for the afternoon flight we had to catch the airport ferry to a different island. (I’m always irritated that the airport is on a different island than the community. A five-minute crossing separates the two islands.) The ferry runs twice each hour, and everything is about timing. So we came off the state ferry like a small traveling circus, four roller bags, two back packs, and my purse, which this go-round is one of those large summer beach bags.

(Yes, my purse is really like a small child that travels with us. Can’t be left alone, is about the same size as a five-year-old, and has to have its own seat on the plane. I could store other small beings in it, it’s that roomy. You get the idea. ūüôā )

With about 15 minutes to the next airport ferry run, we took a cab from the state ferry terminal down the street, made it to the airport ferry dock, crossed over, dropped the luggage off, and came back to the Ketchikan side. Thanks to the timing of the airport ferry, that only took an hour.

Then, because it was only raining lightly, we opted to walk.

If you’ve ever come to Ketchikan on a cruise, or just happened to wander there for some other reason, you’ll know that the main thoroughfare of the community is Tongass Avenue, which runs the length of the town and extends out to either end of the island. The stretch in town is probably between two and three miles, and we didn’t have to walk that whole way.

We had a strategic route to hit the four stops we needed to make and get back to the airport ferry in time for the 3:15.

First, we needed to pick up mail. At this point, there’s not a lot of mail that accumulates. We take advantage of all the online bill paying options and notifications¬†available. But there’s always something in the box, and we check it anytime we’re in town. Occasionally we have mail forwarded, but at $20 a pop to have mail sent to us, when most of what collects is just the junk, it’s worth the stop if we’re passing through.

We got that done. There was a replacement debit card in the pile of catalogs, fliers, and otherwise very-important stuff, so worth the stop. Then it was on to the really critical stop: haircut and eyebrow waxing.

I love a good brow wax. When I started doing this for myself a few years ago, it was a fun little tack-on to my regular hair cut. Little did I know that it would come to be a necessity in time.

Have you ever tried to pluck your eyebrows wearing glasses?! I can’t do it with them on, and I certainly can’t do it without! Not that I need a lot done. But it’s nice to get that silky smooth feeling every few weeks, and know that someone with better vision than me is cleaning up my brow line.

Bear with me…I know this is a first world problem, but these are the little chores you have to think about when you spend a lot of time on small islands without some of the niceties of life readily available.

After the grooming session, I wanted to look for a new rain jacket.

If you know anything about SE Alaska, you know it’s rainforest. I know, that’s surprising. Rainforest isn’t usually associated with Alaska. But it’s so. Rain here is measured in¬†feet, not inches. As in, Ketchikan gets an average of 13¬†feet of rain each year.

So rain gear is a good thing.

My last jacket’s been showing signs of wear, getting a little thin in spots, and I just found a rip in a seam. Time to replace.

In case you haven’t been shopping for rain gear lately, let me tell you, you can spend¬†hundreds of dollars on a name brand. The most expensive (and ugliest) option I saw was a mere $500.¬†I’m not kidding! It was hideous and outrageous. That’s a pretty good feat, for rain gear.

I looked at several brands…Columbia, North Face, some knock off labels, and wound up with a Helly Hansen jacket. It’s sort of a bright salmon color (appropriate: Ketchikan is the salmon capital of the world) and was a mere $100. A bargain among the other options, and I’ll be easy to spot half a continent away! ūüôā

Then, on to lunch. When restaurant options are limited on the small islands where we work (that’s a generous way to express it) a lunch date is something to look forward to.

That’s one thing that island life does for you…you learn to appreciate so many things that are commonplace in the lower 48.

I appreciate road trips, and having my own car, variety of services and shopping, options of all kinds. Often, here, if there is one of anything…grocery or any type of store or service…there’s only one.

Of course it’s our choice to work in these environments, but still. Nice to have variety.

So lunch…crab cakes and king crab, smoked salmon chowder and yummy bread, a Marion berry buckle dessert, and a friendly waiter to fetch it all.

We left the restaurant with about half an hour to get back to the airport ferry for the run across to the airport. We didn’t make it too far before giving in to the faster option of a cab. Even without luggage we didn’t have time to walk it.

One more ferry ride, then check in with the small inter-island airline for the afternoon flight.

We made it to our next place by early evening, unpacked at the apartment, and squeezed in a grocery run for the week. Funny how the routines of home keeping follow you around, even in temporary lodging.

Epic? Grand adventure? Not really. But I learn, I discover, I savor.

Just another day in the life. The good stuff.

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Afternoon flight

Afternoon flight

One of Alaska's creepy crawlies

One of Alaska’s creepy crawlies

Saturday favorites

I’ve been collecting a few suggestions…in the spirit of paying it forward these are some things I’d recommend to everyone! ūüôā

Getting ready to do some baking. I never get tired of playing in the kitchen! That’s why I hauled my Kitchen Aid mixer to this little apartment, along with a few other essentials. Here are a mix of my current favorites, both savory and sweet, tools and foods.

  • Parchment paper – what a difference this makes in baking. Easy clean up. I particularly love using parchment paper for baking brownies…leave a generous margin of paper hanging over the sides of the brownie pan and just lift out the brownies when baked. Easier to cut brownies out of the pan. When I first tried parchment paper, I was frugal, using it only for certain things. ¬†Now it comes out almost any time I turn on the oven.
  • Silicone baking pans – I’m only beginning to use these, but what I’ve used so far I like. The added bonus: you can shape all sorts of stuff in these…handmade soap or other crafts. Multi-purpose!
  • Cauliflower “mashed potatoes”¬†– I’ll admit when I make this version of the traditional mash I add a little butter and sometimes sour cream to the mix…the flavor is so good I hardly notice the substitution of cauliflower for potato. Best tip: if you want a little more body to your “mash,” add a small potato or two to the head of cauliflower. You’ll still have a lower carb dish, but it will be a little sturdier…maybe a good step down from the all-potato mash.
  • Big wide shreds of parmesan…I can sometimes find this wide shred in the grocery, usually in the specialty cheese section, but if you can’t find it, buy a gorgeous big hunk of parm and use a vegetable peeler to make your own wide, luxurious shreds to top pasta bakes, salads, or whatever needs a little more cheesy goodness.
  • A new favorite, I’ve only recently been roasting garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas. Delicious and simple. Start with two cans of garbanzo beans, drain and rinse. Spread the beans on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, or any seasoning that strikes your fancy. Bake/roast at 400¬į for approximately 30 minutes. I say “approximately” because you may want them to be more or less crunchy. My advice is to check the beans after the first 30 minutes and decide if they’re done to your taste. They’re like popcorn, only better. Good for snacking, and making salads more interesting.
  • Seattle Bakery Cracked Wheat Sourdough Bread…if you can find this brand, buy it! The sourdough flavor comes through with the crunchy nuttiness of the cracked wheat…delicious toasted with jam, or use for the perfect grilled cheese. This bread comes in a big round loaf. Beautiful.
  • Burrata cheese:¬†If you haven’t tried this, you must do so, asap! It’s wonderful, that’s all.
  • My new favorite way to prepare salmon: searing. I used to bake salmon, if I wasn’t grilling, thinking it was the best way to keep it healthy. But I always have trouble with the timing. It seems like I pull it out too fast, or just past the perfect done-ness. I tried pan searing the fresh salmon we caught last weekend, and it was perfect. Just put a little olive oil or butter (ok, I always choose butter) in your pan, and when the pan is hot, place the salmon and season. I turned the fillet once, and got it just right. Not overdone, and the texture was perfect. Outside got a little color, and the inside was medium rare. Never baking salmon again!
  • Homemade Magic Shell: (this is just fun!)
    • 8 ounces of chocolate (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
    • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil

    Place coconut oil in double boiler over low heat and melt. Add chocolate chips to double boiler with the oil. Gently blend chocolate into coconut oil until smooth.  Let cool for a few minutes and then drizzle on your favorite anything. Perfect for dipping fruit. Bananas, strawberries, and grapes are my favorites. Made some frozen dipped bananas recently and can verify: highly edible! Also perfect for ice cream.

In the digital world, check these out…well worth exploring.

  • PicMonkey – a fun and easy photo editor…there’s a free version and a paid version, both are great. Good for creating printables or almost anything.¬†Look here.
  • Best way to sell online…I call it a digital garage sale. Check out your local Facebook sale site. The one for Ketchikan is called Ketchikan SaleCycle, it’s a closed group for local residents…an amazing resource if you need something, or if you’re selling. I sold most of my furniture in the move last fall, and a lot of miscellaneous household items…made over $13,000 in just a few weeks. Of course, eventually I’ll have to replace some of those things, but it was a fantastic way to sell without doing a huge one day event that might or might not have gone well. And it’s fun too…actually sort of addicting once you get going. I like it better than Craigslist. I think most communities have a local Facebook sales group. Find the digital garage sales in your area and get ready to clean out!

And finally, some random suggestions:

  • A new favorite exercise…the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro…It really works!
  • Looking to be inspired to say “No!” more often? I can’t say enough about Greg McKeown’s book¬†Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.¬†I read it a few months ago, and I’m still drawing on it as I consider choices. ¬† ¬†I’m one of those people who finds it difficult to say “no.” Recognizing that saying “no” actually honors the real priorities of my life helps me to be strong in the face of my built-in need to please. Not always easy for this Southern girl/woman to do, but I’m trying to be more thoughtful and deliberate about my answers.
  • RSVP Endurance kitchen products: I love these tools. You can find them on Amazon or in specialty kitchen stores. They’re not too pricey, but all the ones I’ve tried are good. Very good. This is a brand like Oxo…great value for the money, and whatever they make is quality. The tools are a pleasure to use.

And finally, a smile for the day:

Organic Donuts

Enjoy your weekend!   ~ Sheila

Gift of summer

This season has been a gift, in every way.

Family, friends, travel, work, play…everything has flowed, cooperated, come together just so.

Aaahhh….

This weekend was another example. We went fishing Saturday, one of the many beautiful summer days we’ve enjoyed this year. We caught three coho salmon, had a dinner of sushi and seared salmon fillet last night (couldn’t decide which taste we preferred, so we had both). Our luck is holding!

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That’s a whale’s fin in this photo!

Catch of the day:

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Standards

“Get caught doing something right.”

I started working in the field of health care in 2006. I had a side-door entry, coming in through an administrative role. My experience of health care is from largely from the business perspective. Still, though I have no clinical skill myself, there’s a lot of overlap with the clinical world, specifically with staff.

I spend a lot of time working to recruit providers and nurses, to coordinate meetings, trainings, and arrange for temporary provider coverage. I write newsletters and policies and the occasional grant.

I swim in corporate email.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming…all the technology, regulation, terminology, bureaucracy, acronyms, staff changes, opinions, personalities…and that’s before¬†patients are added to the mix…the world of the modern family practice clinic.

There are so many patient needs that this community addresses every day, with a shared commitment to ethical care and a standard of best practices.

In the midst of this busyness, there are lessons to be learned, lessons worth observing and passing on. In the whirlwind that envelopes the day-to-day of the clinic, these are the practices I believe in.

This list isn’t a standard for the delivery of health care; it’s a standard, period. You don’t have to be a health care worker to treat someone with dignity, and you can be a leader with great vision and skill even if you were first trained as a provider. These attributes are not incompatible. I’ve known people who exemplify the wonderful blend of compassionate care giver with a head for business and leadership.

These worlds, the often competing worlds of business and health care, overlap so much: they intermingle, and there is no separating them. Sometimes it is to the detriment of each. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can all learn, and perhaps remove some of the cynicism in the process.

I have to believe it’s possible to bring out the best in each other. And with all the meaningless and trivial, there is actual good accomplished.

Here’s how you do it, pure and simple. Turns out, good business and good medicine have a lot in common.

  • People rise to their potential when they have clearly defined structure and expectations, and work in an environment of trust, integrity, and transparency.
  • Right makes might! Doing the right thing commands respect and gives¬†moral authority. Leaders are most effective when they are respected.¬†Respect is a product of living with character and integrity. (If you’re unsure about a decision you’re making, visualize yourself explaining your choice to someone you respect. If you can’t feel good about sharing your decision, you should probably reconsider.)
  • The greatest deficit in most organizations is at the leadership level. Leaders need to set the tone, remove barriers to success, then get out of the way.
  • Principles are timeless, process is not.
  • Promote an environment of creativity and¬†thinking outside the box. When an idea has merit, it deserves recognition and promotion. But don‚Äôt get caught in the trap of thinking that because a decision or method has been accepted, it is set in stone. Leaders understand innovation is the balancing tool of structure. Great organizations regularly evaluate and adjust process.
  • Do one thing at a time. Focus! Concentrating on one thing at a time is actually more productive than¬†multi-tasking.
  • Define the problem. When something is not working, take the time to get to the bottom of the issue. Sometimes the most obvious difficulty is only a symptom of a greater problem.
  • When you‚Äôre problem solving, listen and then ask questions. Survey everyone involved. The perspective of an entry-level employee may be just as valid as the opinion of a department head. People with different roles in an organization have very different insights into how things work, and every point of view is important.
  • Separate noise from the real issues. Sometimes people are just focused on the drama, rather than the root cause. If you correct root causes, the noise will usually go away.
  • Change is inevitable. No individual, position, or process will last forever.¬†Change can be unsettling, but it can also be refreshing.
  • Acknowledge mistakes. Apologize when necessary. Be gracious when someone apologizes to you.¬†Set the example.
  • Express ideas as simply as you can. Be direct. Don’t use “corporate speak.” Simple is best, and people know when they’re being patronized with a lot of flowery words.
  • Promote an atmosphere of calm. Chaos is unsettling and leads to loss of productivity. People do not thrive in an atmosphere of uncertainty.
  • Promote a positive¬†environment. Discourage gossip.¬†Catch people doing something right. Reward that. Honor that.
  • Give honest value and treat people fairly, and both you and your organization will reap the rewards. Perhaps not every time, but¬†in¬†time. Plus, doing the right thing has an impact on the doer. As¬†Abraham Lincoln¬†said, “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad.”
  • What you reward, you repeat. What you permit, you promote.¬†Set the tone, and most people will rise to the expectation.

I’ve sometimes been accused of being idealistic. Well, I’ll take that. I would rather have high hopes and expectations than weary cynicism.

Find your brave.

Go forth and slay dragons. Get caught doing the right thing.

Patterns, patterns, everywhere!

Last week I wrote about the Hoffman Process and some of the insights I gained at the retreat I attended.

You knew I wasn’t finished, didn’t you? I’m faaaar too wordy to condense a week of material into one post!

So this is more of what I learned. This is my distillation, as I understood the material. This is Hoffman philosophy, as interpreted by Sheila.

I learned a lot. One of the terms I heard over and over was “pattern.” We all have patterns, hundreds and hundreds of patterns. A pattern is the default behavior we develop to address circumstances, and our feelings about what is happening, or what was said, or even what we think someone is thinking about us.

Pattern behavior is launched at the subconscious level…so ingrained we don’t even recognize we’re doing what we usually do in a given situation. Acting out patterns typically comes from lightning fast judgments and assumptions we make, based on everything from physical appearance of another person, a specific situation, spoken words, stress, fear, feelings of low self-worth…oh, the list goes on and on.

Have you ever felt an immediate dislike for someone because they remind you of someone else? Have you found yourself reacting to a situation, based on what you tell yourself others are thinking? Do you find yourself repeating behavior automatically when you’re tired, or nervous about something, or overwhelmed?

Congratulations! You, too, are of the human race, and you have patterns, just like the rest of us!

We generally know we have habits. I brush my teeth after meals, I drink coffee every morning. These are habits. They’re different from the concept of patterns. Patterns are not just actions that I do habitually. They are reactive, not really actions of choice.

Typically we develop our patterns in childhood through adolescence. Our patterns are a reflection of a behavior or coping skill we learned and adapted from our parents, or someone who stood in a surrogate role to us; or, we developed our patterns as a reaction to the people who raised us…as in: I don’t like it that my mom/dad does (fill in the blank), so I’ll do the opposite.

Of course we don’t have that conversation with ourselves. This is all happening at a subconscious level. I think it’s fair to say that a pattern is not necessarily, of itself, destructive or negative. Some may be. But I believe most patterns are neutral behaviors. The behaviors become patterns, and become destructive, when we default to a specific action or attitude based on reaction instead of choice.

Examples: Someone threatens our sense of security, and we become small. It’s as if we shrink back to a role from childhood. Becoming small looks just like it sounds. Your physical presence is diminished…maybe you try to become invisible. You minimize yourself, still your voice, give up your opinion, even your right to have an opinion.

For others, feeling intimidated or threatened leads to a show of bravado. Literally, you embody: “You’re not the boss of me!” You talk loudly, maybe bravely. You stand up, make your presence felt. But it’s not authentic bravery; it’s a show of force to soothe your experience of fright.

You see? Two sides of a reaction to the same stimulus.

It can be confusing, to say the least. And it’s damaging when two people begin to react to each other…each feeding the cycles and patterns, in a crazy dance that grows from behavior learned in childhood.

Here’s another example: You run into a friend who is moving forward in her career, while yours feels stagnant. Your interaction is positive and you make all the right encouraging noises. Then you go and buy something on impulse to cheer yourself up, maybe something you can’t afford, don’t need, or will feel guilty about buying. But you buy it anyway.

You reacted to feeling “less than.” You felt badly about your life, so you defaulted to a pattern that helps you feel better, at least for the moment.

The next concept: vicious cycles. That’s when patterns join together to form a downward spiral. In the example above, you can see several patterns, with more on the horizon. You put on an act with your friend because you know that’s the socially acceptable thing to do. Then to make yourself feel better, you turn to buying something for that immediate fix…must.feel.better.now. Then, when you reflect on what you bought…you didn’t need another thing; you put it on a credit card and added to your debt; you feel guilt; you feel sadness; you wonder why you do this on a regular basis; and you spend the rest of the day vacillating between guilt and frustration.

None of this has anything to do with your friend, and you didn’t spend any time thinking about how to improve your career outlook. Instead you got caught up in self-pity, then buying something to feel better emotionally, then second-guessing yourself and feeling mad/sad/frustrated that you added to your debt.

Patterns are not about the other person, or likely, the real situation…instead, they’re a reflection of how we interpret an event, which we pair with a judgment about an event or others. Then we act, and often the first act only leads us down the path to more patterns…more unhappiness.

To find your way through the maze, it’s important to know what your values are. Knowing your values and having determination to live with integrity helps you to stay focused on the outcome you’re seeking. You don’t get caught up as easily in reactionary behavior. You can listen to your voice and know your mind, rather than being swayed by the opinions of others…or the opinions you believe others have.

It’s especially important to know that a lot of what we attribute to other people…what we think someone is thinking of us…is often just a story we make up to fit the narrative we’ve chosen.

Our narratives may have nothing to do with reality.

Here’s an example from the course, in Sheila’s words: You’re going to a party and you don’t really want to go. But you go anyway. When you arrive, you feel intimidated…others are better looking, better dressed, seem like they’re having a good time already. You feel awkward, shy, “less than.”

See where this is going?

No one really notices you when you come in…everyone is involved in conversation. You tell yourself you’re being ignored. You go stand in the corner, and eventually find someone else to talk to who’s also standing on the sidelines. You talk to each other about the others there…how shallow they are, or some other critical observation.

The reality? Likely, no one thought anything negative about you, intentionally ignored you, or felt any ill will toward you. You made up a narrative to support your feelings of “less than.” And then your experience seems authentic. You felt disrespected and unseen.

Ah, it’s interesting, isn’t it, the world that lives in your mind, and how quickly you can evaluate¬†and react to scenarios? Much of this is lightning fast, happening in our minds as we careen between our thoughts and the reality of what’s occurring, or what’s occurring as we see and believe our interpretation of events.

Think about it…we do it all the time.

This is another example: if we’re late to an event, we excuse ourselves…weather or traffic or something likely unavoidable caused us to be late. If someone else is late, we’re likely to see that person as unreliable. So this narrative that runs in our minds works in two ways. Either: We’re likely to give ourselves a pass, excuse, or benefit of the doubt. Or: we make ourselves the guilty ones, the bad ones, the losers, and elevate others when we write our stories.

Fascinating. Of course all of this is on a continuum. There are extremes to patterns, and some people are more mired in reactive behavior than others. The goal is to become aware of how much we live in a reactive state, and live out of choice instead.

Try this next time someone cuts you off in traffic: instead of telling yourself the story that this person is rude, dangerous, inconsiderate, a bad driver, etc., etc., etc., tell yourself the story that this is a couple racing to the hospital to have a baby. When that’s your story for why someone cuts you off, you feel different about what happened. You don’t get heated, or feel slighted. You feel compassion, understanding, sympathy or even empathy for their situation.

Sometimes we may understand the situation perfectly, and maybe the other person involved really does have bad motives, really does have ill will toward us. But you can still act out of choice. You can decide how to behave in the situation. You can choose to respond instead of react. That’s mature behavior. That’s breaking your pattern.

So I challenge you…look at the last day or two and see if you can find patterns for yourself. See how often you react rather than respond. It’s tricky, because actions can look mature, and yet not really be that.

I think the key is awareness. What do you do that is a predictable reaction, given a particular set of circumstances? When you look at those experiences, you can begin to identify your patterns. And when you become aware of being in a pattern, pause, slow down, and choose.

Choose. Respond instead of react. That’s all you need to do. Isn’t it simple?!

Well, I’ve got a little work left to do on myself…a few hundred patterns yet to address. But I’ve made a beginning, choosing to be more aware, more deliberate and intentional, less reactive. It’s a good road to be on, and it fits well with other choices I’ve also made along the way. Being intentional and living with integrity and choice marches together with my faith. All of this work reinforces the values I already have…I don’t want to go through life making assumptions and judgments based on a lot of false story telling.

I don’t think I do that too much. Do I?

Yes. Yes, I do. I don’t do it in ways that are extreme. But I do it. We all do it. And we can change if we choose.

Don’t believe everything you think. Your mind doesn’t always tell you the truth.

The truth hurts; or…the truth will set you free

Last week was intense. I spent my days at a small retreat center in St. Helena, in Napa Valley, California. Does that sound stressful? No?

I took part in a residential program hosted by The Hoffman Institute.

Forty students and six teachers gathered to spend the week learning, sharing, exploring, and confronting.

Some were there to confront past relationships and family dysfunction. Others were there to discern direction for their lives. Still others were there to change self-image, or overcome fears.

All of us were there to confront ourselves, our patterns of behavior, and to grow in our capacity to love and be loved.

We followed a planned curriculum, working through concepts, tools, and experience.

It was a hard week, for some more than others.

The teachers were kind, the food was great, just as you’d expect from a retreat center in northern California.

No wine though, in case you think about going.

Our focus was on dealing with the past, in whatever form it held us back.

It turns out that a lot of my messages to myself aren’t really very helpful.

I know, it was hard for me to believe, too.

I’m such a positive person, so upbeat, really, so cheerful, so easy-going.

Well, I discovered some of that isn’t really true. I mean, I present it as true. I even live it that way. But it’s not how I really feel.

Example: I give myself, and others, a message that I’m a writer, but I follow that acknowledgement with some self-deprecating comment about “don’t look for me on the NY Times bestseller list any time soon!”

Why do I do that? I think it’s to put out there that I might not be successful…sort of like, if I acknowledge that possibility up front, then when I live up to that low expectation, no one is surprised, least of all me, and no one laughs at me for having grandiose dreams.

Whew! I saved myself from that one, didn’t I?!

Here’s another thing I do.

Sometimes I’m nervous about my relationship. When things feel tense or stressed, I sometimes say, “Are you ok?”

What I really mean is: “Am I ok? Am I safe? Are we ok?”

Funny how we use one set of words to mean something else entirely.

Of course, I don’t intentionally substitute words I say for words I mean. I like to think I’m honest and direct.

Sadly, I have to face the reality that sometimes I’m really not….not clear with myself, or clear with the people around me.

It’s a little disheartening to have your defenses dismantled and have to decide what to do with that information.

Another thing I do…I self-censor. I don’t confront, to the point of limiting potential for intimacy. For how can anyone really know me if I have such high walls that not much can get in, or out? Yes, I’m being polite and kind and easy to get along with. I’m also distant, though most people wouldn’t think that. I am kindness and helpfulness personified.

But steel plated none-the-less.

The teachers were very kind, encouraging, inspiring. They challenged us to live with integrity, to love and allow ourselves to be loved. They challenged us to be big.

Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours. ¬†~ Richard Bach

So what do I do now?

I’m going to enlarge my dreams, quit worrying about what others think so much. No, I’m not going to go to the other extreme. But how did I come to think it’s smart or wise to argue for my limitations? Life will knock me down enough without me adding my own spirit to the process. I know that. And trying to protect myself with some advance notice that I’m not likely to be a best-selling author is not doing me or anyone else any good.

So now…I am a writer. I plan to be successful. I don’t need to project what that will look like. But I can at least forecast something positive and hopeful. Why wouldn’t I? The worst that will happen is that I’m not, in fact, successful, which won’t really matter to anyone else anyway.

And as for other ways I’ve been fearful….I don’t know what’s happened, but I’m not feeling that now. I’ve recognized that fear doesn’t help me avoid the hard things of life…it just prolongs them. It doesn’t save me anything. It makes difficulties harder.

Another side benefit of the week: there are almost 50 people who know a bit about my frailties, and I know something of theirs. That makes us a unique little community, able to support each other from time zones and continents across the world, thanks to email and phones. It’s a rare thing to make even a couple of new friends in a week’s time. But fifty?! That must be some kind of¬†record. At least it is for me.

Well well…maybe it was easy an easy week after all.